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3121

Prince 3121

This week's show begins with a discussion of the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince. The enigmatic musician made news this week when his new album 3121 debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. Hard to believe, but this was Prince's first number-one debut. He has since been dethroned by Atlanta rapper T.I., but it was certainly an impressive comeback for this revolutionary pop icon. Before giving reviews of the album, Jim and Greg discuss other late-career comebacks. In the '90s the Grateful Dead found a new audience with their only Top 40 song, "Touch of Grey." Santana is another artist whose first couple of albums went platinum, but did not find further success until 1999's Supernatural. That album, which paired the guitarist with contemporary pop artists like Rob Thomas, Wyclef Jean and Everlast, sold 15 million copies. Clive Davis tried this same approach with Prince on the album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, but the results were not as, um, fantastic. Other late career successes include Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and most recently, Mariah Carey. So is 3121 an artistic comeback as well as a commercial one? For Jim, it is not the achievement that Prince's earlier albums were, but still merits a Buy It rating. Greg is not so kind. There are a handful of tracks that are worth sampling, but this critic only suggests you Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 19
dijs

Greg

“Work It”Missy Elliott

It is Greg's turn to pop a quarter into the Desert Island Jukebox, but this week he had a hard time choosing just one song. According to our host, hip hop star Missy Elliott is the top singles artist of the last 10 years. Along with producers like Timbaland, she makes truly avant-garde music, but does so in a really fun, accessible way. Therefore, it's no wonder that her songs are hits critically and commercially. For this week's show, Greg went with the song "Work It." The song demonstrates Missy's novel approach to sounds and words. It isn‘t really about anything new, but the lyrics, beats and sounds (note the elephant’s wail) couldn't sound fresher. In fact, only Missy Elliott could get away with having the hook to a Top 40 hit be sung backwards. So, you may not be able to sing along to this week's DIJ, but you'll certainly want to.

Go to episode 117

Greg

“Work It”Missy Elliott

It is Greg's turn to pop a quarter into the Desert Island Jukebox, but this week he had a hard time choosing just one song. According to our host, hip-hop star Missy Elliott is the top singles artist of the last 10 years. Along with producers like Timbaland, she makes truly avant-garde music, but does so in a really fun, accessible way. Therefore, it's no wonder that her songs are critical and commercial hits. For this week's show, Greg went with the song "Work It." The song demonstrates Missy's novel approach to sounds and words. It isn‘t really about anything new, but the lyrics, beats and sounds (note the elephant’s wail) couldn't sound fresher. In fact, only Missy Elliott could get away with having the hook to a Top 40 hit be sung backwards. So, you may not be able to sing along to this week's DIJ, but you'll certainly want to.

Go to episode 25
news

Music News

In what is turning into a regular Sound Opinions segment:“The Recording Industry vs. The Consumer,”Jim and Greg turn this week to a news item coming out of Oregon. Earlier this year the RIAA filed a lawsuit accusing 17 unnamed suspected University of Oregon students of illegally sharing music. The suspects are identified only by an Internet address, and industry lawyers have demanded that the university identify them. Previously when the RIAA has done this, universities cooperated. But the University of Oregon's response has been quite remarkable. UO officials are refusing to identify the students without an investigation, saying that this would compromise their privacy and property rights. Oregon's Attorney General has backed the school and is accusing the RIAA of bullying. Jim and Greg speak to Tony Green, a reporter at the Oregonian, about what is fast becoming a contentious battle.

While they may not be effective, the record industry lawsuits are an attempt to maintain ground in an ever-changing landscape. The next two stories speak to this music industry flux. Universal, the top music label, has ordered its artists to take full tracks off of their MySpace pages. While MySpace was once viewed as a great promotional tool, it's now been added to the list of digital distribution enemies. Therefore, commercial successes like Colbie Caillat are having to remove content from their sites and explain the issue to hungry fans. This move might have been a response to losses Universal experienced last quarter. They're also laying off a number of top and mid-level executives, and Vivendi, the company that owns the label, has announced plans to acquire video game publisher Activision. Activision produces Guitar Hero, the game that has proven to be more successful than any music release this year.

Another area the music industry is struggling with is commercial radio. With an increasing number of alternatives to radio including internet radio and the iPod, broadcast radio listenership has been gradually diminishing over the past few years. In an effort to maintain listeners, program directors are actually choosing to play fewer songs, more times. New York Times reporter Jeff Leeds explains that commercial radio stations are oddly choosing to keep the listeners they've got, rather than get new ones. The most recent example of this strategy is the tremendous amount of airpla{artist: y given to OneRepublic's hit single "Apologize." The Timbaland} produced track recently broke the record for the most plays of a song on the nation's Top 40 stations in a single week. It was played almost 11,000 times in one single week and was heard by more than 70 million listeners.

Go to episode 106

Music News

Certainly there have been a number of gay advocates and gay icons in pop music. But, many are calling "Same Love" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the first Top 40 song to explicitly embrace and promote gay marriage. It seems to have captured the country's mood, reflecting growing support for gay marriage in the polls and a recent Supreme Court victory for same sex couples. And Macklemore is a straight man, to boot.

Ahead of its launch of an online radio service, Apple has revealed some more details about its deal with independent record labels. And it appears they'll be more generous than rival Pandora. Of course, the music giant is in a position to do so. But this can't be welcome news to Pandora, which has recently been the subject of some unflattering headlines.

Go to episode 397

Music News

Oh, how the mighty have fallen—and we're not just talking about lackluster MJ. After its two-month reign as the nation's #1 album, the Frozen soundtrack has at last been ousted from its throne… by Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 50. What are we to make of this coup by Universal's unending compilation series? On one hand, it's proof that the Top 40 crowd is still the biggest force in purchasing music. But on the other, it's surprising that teens still want Now! to curate their playlists when it's so easy to create their own. Turn Down for What? For Idina Menzel, apparently.

Go to episode 443

Music News

While more visual spectacle than musical, the MTV Video Music Awards have come and gone again, and what's most interesting is what didn't happen, rather than what did. And by“what”we mean controvery. After the Parents Television Council urged MTV to avoid a repeat of last year's Miley Cyrus twerk-fest, the watchdog group announced that they were mostly pleased with the more family-friendly content. But, the PTC did express concerns about the way women were portrayed. Guess they missed Sofia Vergara's Emmy posing.

And there were still some naked performances…Deadspin released the isolated vocals from both Taylor Swift and Beyonce's appearances. They added a spectrum analysis layer to show how well each singer stayed on pitch. Beyonce fared better, but Jim can sympethize with Miss Swift; only a capella singers sound great without musicians.

bush

Also making news, music fans around the world are celebrating the comeback of the great British singer Kate Bush. After 35 years being offstage, she received an enthusiastic response after announcing "Before the Dawn," a run of 22 shows, which sold out in 15 minutes! Fans (some say including Madonna, Lily Allen and Bjork) watched as Bush opened the first show at London's Hammersmith Apollo with "Lily," from the 1993 album Red Shoes. Bush says she was encouraged to return to performing by her son, Bertie. The show was incredibly elaborate and theatrical- hopefully not too exhausting for Kate.

We also say welcome back to Prince and his longtime frenemy Warner Bros Records. His Purple Majesty will release two new albums at the end of September, marking the end of one of the longest-running employment disputes in musical history. Prince fell out with the label in the early 1990's, prompting him to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol and appear in public with the word“slave”across his face. Now he plans to release two albums: Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum with his all-female band, 3rd Eye Girl.

Rounding out the news, Jim and Greg discuss the idea of the perfect length for a pop song. Long ago technology dictated the length of a tune. A 78 vinyl record came in two sizes—a 10-inch that held 3 minutes of music and a 12-inch that held 4. Midway through the rock ‘n’ roll era, songs like "Stairway to Heaven" blew out those conventions. And certainly, with the digital music revolution, all bets should be off, right? Not so. Brevity is the soul of Top 40. And a radio station in Calgary, Alberta is taking that philosophy to the extreme. 90.3 AMP is telling listeners they will no get“twice the music.”In fact, they'll hear half a song. The station will be editing its plays in order to keep listeners from getting bored. In effect, this is the 140 character limit of music.

We don‘t endorse this approach, but here’s our own celebration of "Short but Sweet" tracks

Go to episode 457